Enter the Ring: A Review

Enter the Ring by D.A. & Elicia Horton

A truth I have learned in ministering to couples is that marriages don’t end because couples fight they end because they either stopped fighting or didn’t fight fair. In this book the Hortons provide biblical advice on how couples can fight to stay together in a world that pulls marriages apart.

Throughout this book the Hortons point to the importance of pursuing Christ together for the health and well being of the marriage. Common problems like how to manage family relationships are addressed from a biblical perspective. The importance of shared goals and communication in every area especially finances are demonstrated.

I have known far too many couples divorce because they weren’t willing to fight for their marriages and as a result damaged their gospel witness and the witness of their church. I would commend this book to couples and to pastors looking for resources to use in premarital and marital counseling.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Embodied Hope: A Review

Embodied Hope by Kelly M. Kapic

The best books to read on suffering are those written by those who are personally acquainted with it. Author and professor Kelly Kapic writes not as one detached from suffering, but as a fellow-sufferer and the husband of one deeply acquainted with pain and suffering.

In eleven chapters Kapic provides pastoral and theological wisdom in regard to pain in suffering. In the early chapters of the book Kapic addresses how pain and suffering often tempt us to think ill of God and the need to be reoriented to God and the place of lament and questions in pain in suffering. In the second of section Kapic points readers to the cross and the significance there is in Christ’s identification with us for the pain and suffering we find in this world. In the final section Kapic addresses the importance of community for suffering saints, also noting how in  suffering there is a temptation to isolate oneself from community for fear of how others will react.

Of all the subjects one could read about it might be asked why anyone should want to read a book on pain and suffering. Kapic speaks to certainties of life in addressing pain and suffering. If you are a Christian you will suffer in some way, it is part of being a follower of Christ sharing in His sufferings. Not only that those you love and know will suffer. If you are in ministry everyone you minister is suffering or will suffer. Kapic’s book is a valuable resource that points faithfully to the bedrock foundation we have in hope even and especially in the midst of suffering.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

How Does Sanctification Work?: A Review

How does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison

In this latest title from David Powlison he  addresses one area of the Christian life that is often deeply misunderstood with the clarity and biblical insight that mark his previous books.

Powlison in the early portions of the book ably addresses the careful balance between the biblical promise of sanctification and the biblical commands concerning our pursuit of sanctification. As Powlsion notes often we can become unbalanced in our view of sanctification and must seek to re-balance it in light of Scripture. Powlison helpfully reminds readers that there are multiples avenues by which God brings about sanctification in our lives. Powlison provides multiples case studies including his own personal experience demonstrating how sanctification practically works in the life of a believer.

I do think in addressing the subject of sanctification attention to distorted views such as Keswick theology and Christian Perfectionism would have greatly contributed to the value of the book. Those understandings of sanctification are still prevalent in evangelicalism and have demonstrably caused great harm driving believers to dispair rather than a hopeful pursuit of conformity to Christ. With that aside I do think this is one of the most helpful resources on sanctification I have come across. This book is greatly helped by the fact that Powlison provides personal examples to help readers better see and understanding the process of sanctification.

Disclosure: I received a review ecopy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review: Resolving Conflict

Last year was a year that brought many great resources in the field of biblical counseling. One that I was excited  to receive and have been greatly helped by is Resolving Conflict by Lou Priolo.

Lou Priolo’s introduction itself provides as a helpful corrective to current attitudes surrounding conflict. In my experience as a pastor I have seen what Priolo addresses in regards to viewing all conflict as inherently negative. This attitude leads to an unhealthy conflict avoidance which almost always makes problems worse. Rather than be avoided conflicts should be resolved in a biblical manner.

Priolo’s first section addresses the key characteristics that should exist for conflicts to be resolved in a biblical manner those being; humility, gentleness, patience, and loving forbearance. With that foundation laid Priolo looks at the biblical understanding of conflict. He addresses types of conflicts that can occur, the importance of communicating. Priolo examines the unbiblical ways we often handle conflict both in how we internally and externally respond. Priolo makes clear that biblical conflict resolution is hard work which is why it calls for diligence.

If you are a living breathing person you have had to deal with conflict in your life. Much as we try to avoid conflict it still happens. The question is not if conflict will occur at home, work, or in the church the question is how will it be handled. Priolo’s work provides a resource that gets to the heart of how to address conflict in a biblical manner with a desire for unity and peace.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 

Review:The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life

In The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life Jeremy Pierre addresses the role of the heart and affections in human experience. I know as a pastor it all to easy to think of dealing with people and their problems as something needing information with no consideration of what is going on in a persons heart.

In the first section of the book Pierre provides a biblical overview of the heart and the human condition. In the first chapter he draws from Scripture and shows the functions of the heart as being cognitive, affective, and volitional with these functions being interconnected and overlapping. Pierre addresses the ways in which the Fall has impacted the human heart and the change that occurs as a result of redemption. The second section addresses the external influences that the heart responds to. This is important to consider in pastoral counseling because those we minister to are not minds divorced from external circumstances. We minister to real people, in real homes, with  real experiences that have deeply shaped how they respond to life. If to effectively minister means we deal with the whole person and not just their intellectual side what and how do we do it? Pierre in his final section addresses just that challenge. Pierre shows how we can become as literate in reading our fellow man as we are in reading our volumes on theology as well as using that to faithfully minister to those entrusted to us.

If you want to address a vital part of biblical counseling, the human heart, aside from certain Puritans I can’t think of a better book to pick up. As a disclaimer I will add I was a member of Clifton Baptist Church where Jeremy Pierre serves as an elder and developed a great deal of respect for him, he exemplifies what he teaches in this work.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review: When Trouble Comes

When Trouble Comes

Suffering is not optional in life and because of that we should be prepared to walk through suffering and to minister to those who are suffering. In When Trouble Comes Phil Ryken walks through some of the most important examples of those who went through suffering in the pages of Scripture drawing out application for today from the accounts.

Ryken in his prologue addresses a particularly dark period in his life in which he battled despair.This is helpful in that often times it easy to in a way dehumanize those who are looked up to as leaders and seeing them as being immune to the sufferings common people go through. In considering the individuals examined it becomes clear that Ryken has a purpose in the variety, and that purpose is to explore the broadness of suffering. People don’t suffer in just one way and in one set of circumstances. We see the suffering that comes through addressing  sin and guilt in awareness of the holiness of God as reflected in Isaiah’s experience. We are minded that those areas we might think ourselves most gifted and faithful in might be the place where sin and guilt are most present. We see the crushing reality of discouragement and despair as well as the comfort and patience of God in Elijah’s life. From David, Job, Mary, Jesus and to Paul we are driven to a greater understanding of suffering and what God might be doing in the midst of our suffering. Most importantly Ryken leaves readers with hope as they prepare for suffering.

Suffering has come. In your church there are people walking through suffering. Suffering will come. Your life might seem like it is going smoothly but that doesn’t change the fact someday you will suffer. You might hear devastating news from your doctor, stand at the grave of a spouse or child, or be confronted by the true depths of your sinfulness before a holy and righteous God. When it comes you don’t want to find yourself to either walk through suffering or to walk alongside those who are suffering. Read and reflect on the realities of God and suffering in this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Review: Marry Wisely, Marry Well

Marry Wisely, Marry Well by Ernie Baker has proved to be a very timely resource for myself as I am getting ready to begin premarital counseling with a young couple in my church.

To be clear while the primary focus of this book is preparation for marriage and navigating the perilous period of singleness it more than a book on marriage preparation. The first two chapters delve into the biblical understanding of wisdom with a strong exhortation to purse Christ’s wisdom. The third chapter addresses the nature of attraction and potential dangers regarding attraction, which is a good word for all to pay attention to married or single. Chapter 4 presents the biblical design and purpose for marriage. The second section of the book serves as a guide for those navigating the period of singleness giving biblical guidance in regards to preparedness for marriage and finding a spouse providing a helpful corrective to the current hook-up culture found in the West.

I’ve encountered a lot of books on courtship and dating during my college years, many of them being by Josh Harris and Elisabeth Elliot. This book stands out in its pursuit of applying biblical wisdom to the area of dating and preparation for marriage. If you work with singles and students this a resource that will provide them an understanding of God’s design for relationships that will guard them from much heart ache in the future. I would especially recommend walking a young adult through this book in the context of mentoring.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Review: Good & Angry

David Powlison addresses important and often overlooked issues related to anger in his latest title Good & Angry.

Anger is an emotion that we can be involved with in many different ways. We can be the one expressing anger, we can be the recipient of anger, and we can be witness to anger coming from and impacting others. Powlison makes clear that we all have an anger problem whether we are on the giving or receiving end of anger. In the second section of this book Powlison gives a thorough overview of the biblical teaching regarding anger. He helps correct what seems to be a common misconception by reminding the reader of the reality of righteous anger. The third section provides a guide of how to practically deal with anger. The final section of the book are where he deals with hard cases ranging from anger over a grievous past hurt to anger at God.

None of us is exempted from the problem of anger. I’ve lived through others’ anger, I have seen anger destroy families, marriage, and churches. Any pastor would be foolish to not avail themselves of this useful resource on an issue that involves them and everyone they now, because as Powlison demonstrates we all have an anger problem.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Review: When There Are No Easy Answers

When There Are No Easy Answers by John Feinberg is personal and powerful work on suffering and the Christian. Feinberg draws on his own personal experience of walking with his life through her initial diagnosis of Huntington’s disease and the subsequent course their life took giving practical advice in how to walk through suffering and how to minister to those who suffer.

Feinberg lays out his own personal wrestling with the problem of suffering, not just as a theoretical issue of philosophy but as a very real personal experience. He traces the feelings that those who experience might suffer pointing out the feelings of abandonment, anger, and betrayal that might arise. I think the third chapter of this book is one that could stand on its own. Often when we are dealing with others who are suffering we want to merely address the intellectual aspects and that too often with short glib answers. Feinberg effectively shows how these easy answers we try to address suffers with often hurt more than they help. Feinberg in the following chapters makes clear that in all of our suffering there is still evidence of God’s goodness to us. Feinberg struggled with a feeling that somehow God had deceived him by not telling them what awaited them in the future, Feinberg shows this too is God’s goodness as the present has enough to concern us.

As someone who is theologically and philosophically oriented this book was a helpful corrective for me. This book has helped me think through the personal and emotional aspects of suffering in addition to the intellectual questions that arise in light of suffering. I’d recommend this book to anyone. This isn’t just a book for ministers, this a book for anyone as we will all experience some suffering and we will walk with others through suffering.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html

Biblical Counseling and the Church

Biblical Counseling and the Church edited by Bob Kellemen and Kevin Carson is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to implement biblical counseling into the life of the local church.

This first section of this book is directed more towards those who bear the responsibility of pastoral ministry in the local church. The various authors seek to demonstrate the vital importance of biblical counseling to areas such as preaching of the word, private ministry, and other areas dealing with pastoral oversight. The second section addresses incorporating biblical counseling into various small group settings. The third section demonstrates the interconnectedness of biblical counseling and church disciple and conflict resolution. The fourth section deals with equipping and implementing biblical counseling in various contexts and the details involved. The fifth section deal with biblical counseling issues beyond the walls of the church in outreach, parachurch, and the academy. The final section addresses the biblical counseling movements overall future.

This book is an expansive resource with material that would be beneficial for any level of leadership in any size church. I think the chapter on counseling in a “smaller church” is especially helpful. I myself have been challenged by my need to continue to grow in my counseling skills. I would recommend this book to any pastor or leader in the local church.

Disclosure: I received this book free from from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html